Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Those Bad Ass Brides!

Aloha, Hip Hapa Homeez.
For those of you in the know, you must be aware that today is the anniversary of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor which eventually led to the U.S. occupation. It also happens to be the first Wednesday in December, the day we post this blog with its recent focus on the documentary film War Brides of Japan.

While our film doesn’t really delve into details surrounding the bombing of Pearl Harbor, we do look at how the succeeding World War II affected the lives of Japanese women who met and married American GI’s. Stay tuned as we hope to have War Brides of Japan edited by spring.

Meanwhile, we have some good news, and we have some bad. First, the bad. This Watermelon Sushi World blog will change to a new format in 2017—publishing only quarterly. So, we’ll be publishing the first Wednesdays of the following months: March, June, September and December. The good news is that the new format is due to the success of War Brides of Japan. In other words, we just don’t have the time to blog while we’re making this movie.

Your Hip Hapa is also lining up more interviewees from mixed-race, interracial relationship, transracial adoptee and cross-cultural communities for this blog. If you, or someone you know, would like to participate—hollah! Meanwhile, visit our Facebook group page, Hip Hapa Homeez, to engage in discussion of relevant topics.

As you know, Your Hip Hapa has been diligently seeking, finding and interviewing Japanese war brides, their adult children and grandchildren. In September, our crew traveled to California, Arizona, then driving through Oregon to Washington and, even stopping in British Columbia Canada to film participants and conduct photo ops with some of our generous donors and wonderful supporters.

Take a peep at some of our fabulous friends:

Dale Head of Wai'anae Hawai'i is one of our generous donors
so is Paz Cateil, a wonderful realtor on the Westside of O'ahu
Eric Gould is a Seattle-based donor;
here we are at Alki Beach in Seattle
donor Gil Asakawa (right) lives in Denver with his wife Erin Yoshimura;
he's also the author of "Being Japanese American" and a blogger himself
Diana Martinez Portugal (right) is the daughter of a Japanese war bride;
she and her husband (center) live in Clovis, and Diana arranged our interview for KPCF 88.1 Fresno
host Michael Medrano interviewed us on his show on KPCF 88.1 Fresno

camera operator Sean Hardin is dwarfed by Paul Bunyan in Klamath California during our first shoot
here's Sean Hardin setting up for Regina Lark's interview at her West LA  home office during our second shoot;
Regina wrote her dissertation on Japanese war brides
Your Hip Hapa (center) gets ready to leave Moorpark following our second shoot with
Roleta Fowler Vasquez (right), daughter of a Japanese war bride, and her husband, Joe
Check out our latest trailer!

Our Network for Good account is still active, so you can make your 100% tax deductible donation here:

Arrigatou gozaimasu for being there for us.

Here are more links, links, links!

War Brides of Japan videos:

War Brides of Japan websites:

War Brides of Japan news:

War Brides of Japan Facebook:

War Brides of Japan LinkedIn:

War Brides of Japan Twitter:

War Brides of Japan G+:

War Brides of Japan blogs:

A War Bride's artwork:

Dear Hip Hapa Homeez, we will reach out to you in March just in time for hanami—cherry blossom viewing time.

Your Hip Hapa,


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Your Hip Hapa Films War Brides Of Japan

Gommenasai, Hip Hapa Homeez!

director Yayoi with war bride daughter
Diana and her husband in Clovis
There are always firsts, and this is definitely a first. For the first time since 2008, and Your Hip Hapa’s regularly scheduled posts, we are late.

But you’ll understand why when you learn that all our time has been devoted to filming and editing our documentary, War Brides of Japan.

Besides, Your Hip Hapa’s calendar got soaked from a bottle of water that spilled inside her bag while she was on the road filming. Consequently, everything written in ink got smeared—including deadline dates.

Apologies! Meanwhile, here we are ten days late with news from our travels.

Please enjoy!

>>from Hollywood, to Oxnard, to Fillmore, to Laguna Woods, to Tucson, to Clovis and Fresno, to Elk Grove and Sacramento, to San Jose and San Francisco California, to Tacoma and Kirkland Washington and beyond--we've been meeting and filming the most amazing war brides, their adult children, grandchildren, hosts and hostesses, donors and many others.

see for yourself (all production stills courtesy Sean Hardin):

war bride daughter Roleta with her husband Joe and dog Ozzy in Fillmore

war bride Asako-san with her daughter Margaret in Laguna Woods

war bride daughter M. shows off kimono with husband Steve in Tucson

war bride Fumiko-san flanked by daughters Diane and Myokei in Elk Grove

war bride daughter Yoshi-san holds up pix of her mother and aunt making mochi in Sacramento

war bride daughter Jean shows off Chinese zodiac in San Jose

J-town in San Jose

donor Lenore with director Yayoi in San Francisco

donor Kareem in Seattle

donor Silvia with director Yayoi in Tacoma

war bride son Mike with his wife, sister Doris, their Japanese cousin and Doris' granddaughter Alana in Tacoma

war bride daughters Doris and Cassie in Tacoma
remember, we're still fundraising at Network for Good where your donation is 100% completely tax-deductible:<<

And, here are more links!

War Brides of Japan videos:

War Brides of Japan websites:

War Brides of Japan news:

War Brides of Japan Facebook:

War Brides of Japan LinkedIn:

War Brides of Japan Twitter:

War Brides of Japan G+:

War Brides of Japan blogs:

A War Bride's artwork:

See you next bi-month, on December 7--a significant day for War Brides of Japan.

ja, mata ne!

Your Hip Hapa,


Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Bad Ass Brides: Keep On Keepin’ On!

Konnichi-wa, Hip Hapa Homeez!

beautiful brides: Mrs.Wright, Mrs. Davis, Mrs. Winfrey
Until our War Brides of Japan feature documentary is on the screen, we’re going to be blogging about it a lot.

If you’re interested in discussing being biracial or a transracial adoptee, or being in an interracial relationship or just crossing cultures, please go to our Hip Hapa Homeez group page on Facebook where we do just that.

Otherwise, we’re all about War Brides of Japan right now.

First off, a BIG UP! to all our donors. You know who you are, and we’ll mention you by name in another post. That is, if you haven’t chosen to remain anonymous. We’ll have to get your permission first, so let us know.

For the rest of you who haven’t yet made a 100% tax-deductible donation to the War Brides of Japan documentary, you can do so by clicking here: PLEASE DONATE!

best friends: Yuriko-san and Emiko-san,
who loved wearing Chinese dresses
Next, here’s a correction about our last blog post that indicated all Japanese war brides entered into interracial marriages with either black or white American military men. We have since learned that there were some Japanese American Intelligence Officers stationed in Japan during the Occupation. Some of them also married Japanese war brides. However, since those men did work that was highly classified, few people know of their stories. If you have such a story, please let us know.

Further, we recently located a Japanese war bride married to a Mexican American GI, another rare exception. If you know of a Japanese war bride who married someone other than a black or white American, please drop us a line. In fact, if you know any Japanese war brides at all, tell us about them, too.
in the kitchen with Yuriko-san
mover over, Julia Child!
Even though we have scheduled interviews with about a dozen war brides and or their adult children, it’s good to be aware of any others out there—especially on the West Coast where we’re going to begin our filming. We will keep you posted, Hip Hapa Homeez!

To know more about the War Brides of Japan documentary film project, please check out the links below:

We have also created a closed group page on Facebook called Japanese War Brides and Their Children. Please request membership if you’re interested in joining us.

Yuriko-san, back in the day with her ocha and ciggies
And, of course, we still have our Watermelon Sushi narrative film project although it’s understandably on hold right now:

Yayoi Lena Winfrey fan page on Facebook (sorry, but Your Hip Hapa can’t add any more friends to her regular profile page) 

There, that should hold you for awhile! See you in a bi-month, Hip Hapa Homeez. And, don't forget: PLEASE DONATE!

ja, mata ne!

Your Hip Hapa,


Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Beautiful, Brave, Bodacious And Bad-Ass: War Brides of Japan

Chi’z, hip hapa homeez!

A good friend from Japan who’s been teaching me the language told me the hip greeting for konnichi-wa is simply “chi’zzz” (cheese) as in chi-wa as in nichi-wa as in konnichi-wa. Clever, huh?

Another Japanese national I recently met told me the hip word to describe what was trending in Japan is “now-ee”. Japan has sure changed a lot since my Mom left it.

Asako Sakaguchi and Phillip Miller  
Speaking of, there’s lots of news to share about our ongoing War Brides of Japan documentary project. For one, we've released a preproduction trailer that shares a little history about Japanese war brides. Here it is:

Even though we haven’t officially launched our crowdfunding campaign yet, we’ve already received our very first donation. Thank you, Global Music Awards!

Further, our donor also donated a video camera complete with accessories! So, now we’re in the process of scheduling interviews with both war brides and/or their adult children. Stay tuned here for updates, or else at our Facebook Fan page:

Our website should be up and running by next week.

Teruko Nishina and Roland Franklin Stead, Jr.
Here’s our tag line:

…beautifully brave Japanese women who married American military men after WWII were called “war brides”—although contrary to that label, they didn’t marry a war but instead expressed their unconditional love by marrying “the enemy”…

Every single Japanese war bride entered into an interracial marriage. Following Japan’s surrender in WWII, it became occupied by American armed forces made up of either black or white men. Since interracial marriage was still banned in 16 states, some war brides took a big risk being with their own mates.

Besides struggling with cultural and language barriers, brave war brides also had to endure the hostility of some Americans once they moved to the U.S. with their husbands. Both black and white Americans blamed them for starting WWII because Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. No matter that these women were innocent civilians and helpless to challenge their own government about its war agenda.

Harue Abiru and Charles William Lahn
Not only did war brides leave behind their families (some who disowned them for "marrying the enemy"), but they also moved to a country they’d never seen before with men that had only years earlier might have helped destroy theirs.

Each war bride from Japan has her own unique story, and we hope to tell as many as we can in this documentary.

Here are links to slideshows we've created in the past, including one that placed among the top three entries in the New Media Film Festival in Los Angeles in 2012 (although it was later disqualified for using the One True Media app):

Come along with us, Hip Hapa Homeez, on this amazing journey to honor these beautiful, brave, bodacious, bad-ass War Brides of Japan!

Yasue Hayakawa and Rev. Williams
with daughters
And, remember, we still have our feature narrative, Watermelon Sushi, to complete so please support our pages.

Yayoi Lena Winfrey fan page on Facebook (sorry, but Your Hip Hapa can’t add any more friends to her regular profile page)

We also have our Hip Hapa Homeez group on Facebook where members post articles about being bicultural, biracial, transracially adopted, from a blended family or part of an interracial couple.

See you next bi-month for more about the War Brides of Japan.

Your Hip Hapa,


Yuriko Naito and A.W. Winfrey
with daughters

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Beginning At The Beginning With The Daughter Of A Japanese War Bride

Konnichi-wa, Hip Hapa Homeez.

my cousin at the sakura-blooming Imperial Palace

Your Hip Hapa recently returned from a fact-finding mission in sakura-blooming Nippon. Even though I stayed in a major international city like Tokyo, I felt more like a minority there than, say, in Los Angeles. Among 13 million mostly ethnic Japanese, I saw less than 100 foreigners over a two-week span. When I say ‘foreigner’, I mean those not of Asian ancestry. Obviously, I couldn’t identify any non-Japanese who may have been of another East Asian heritage, so there may have been more ‘foreigners’ than I recognized--such as the large contingents of ethnic Chinese spotted in the lobby of my hotel because of the banners they were holding. But just based on physical appearances, I would say I was one of approximately 100 non-Japanese-looking among millions.

Mom, bottom row, 3rd from left

Strangely enough, I was spoken to in Japanese all the time, but that may be due more to Japanese' reluctance to use English even if they knew it. I could be wrong. Perhaps they thought I looked close enough to the ‘real deal’ to be spoken to in their native tongue. After all, my relatives marveled at how much I resembled my ‘pure’ Japanese mother. Or maybe, they--as should rightly be expected--felt that anyone visiting their country would at least know how to communicate with them in their own language. Sadly, my nihongo is at an elementary school level. You know the sort of dialogue that goes: ‘Hello. How are you? My name is Yayoi. How do I get to Shinagawa-ku?’

me and Mom, back in the day
Even though my self-made journey included mostly visiting shrines and temples in ancient parts of the city, I don’t want to focus on writing a culture-crossing travelogue here. Instead, I want to concentrate on why I went to Japan in the first place.

my cousin with the doctor's daughter
Because I’m filming a documentary about Japanese war brides like my mother, I wanted to find out where she and I started our lives together. When I told my cousin who lives in the U.S. that I wanted to visit the clinic where I was born, she diligently tracked it down through an equally diligent city employee. Although the clinic had moved to a different address, the two were able to locate it. In Japan, my cousin’s oldest sister guided us to Machida-shi, the city where my mother gave birth to me. There, we found the clinic and spoke with the daughter of the late doctor who delivered me. Even though my father was an American soldier at the time, my parents weren’t legally married so I came into the world at a Japanese clinic presided over by a Japanese doctor. Over the years, my mother told me many stories about my birth and how she regretted never taking me back to meet the doctor who helped me arrive on planet Earth. Thanks to the hard work of my two cousins and the city official, I found closure about my beginning in life. What a homecoming!

On another day, my Associate Producer, Ray Tabata, his friend from Hilo, and I visited the Kaigai Iju Shiryokan, or The Japanese Overseas Migration Museum (managed by JICA), in Yokohama. As we walked towards the venue, I looked over at the Bay and realized my mother and I had departed for America from those very waters. Suddenly, a ship’s horn sounded and it took me back to that day we left Japan, even though I was only two years-old then and couldn't possibly remember it. Still, I could imagine it.

The visit with museum staff was amazing and saturated with information. If you can, you should take a tour of the exhibit that highlights Japanese who left Japan to live abroad. By now, most people know that Brazil has the second largest population of Japanese in the world, but how many know that 61% of great grandchildren of Japanese Brazilians are marrying into other ethnic groups?

The museum staff was really excited that our party was visiting from Hawai’i as they had a huge display of Japanese sugar cane workers that arrived at plantations on the islands. Besides providing us with tremendous resources for our War Brides of Japan documentary, they also happily talked stories with us--in English.

Towards the end of my Japan voyage, my cousins and I visited the family cemetery, and I was able to formally say good-bye to my grandmother.

And when I retuned home, I was surprised to learn that Ray Tabata had located the daughter of a Japanese war bride living near us. The real surprise came when I saw her name, Marlene Blackwell, and recognized it as belonging to someone our family knew decades ago at an Army base in Washington State. When I spoke with Marlene, she sent me the picture, below, of her and my sister performing at a PTA meeting. She determined it had to be my sister after I told her that she had an unusual mark on her cheek because she had fallen off her bike the day of the show and my mother covered it with rouge, a bright red circle that resembled a Japanese flag on her face.
Marlene Blackwell, 2nd from left; my sister to her left
my sister practicing for the performance
Dear Hip Hapa Homeez, please follow us as we begin fundraising and filming War Brides of Japan. Right now, Your Hip Hapa is editing over 4 hours of footage to create a trailer so that you can get a better sense of our filmmaking goals. Meanwhile, here are links to slideshows, including one that placed among the top three entries in the New Media Film Festival in Los Angeles in 2012.

We also have our feature narrative, Watermelon Sushi, to complete so please support our pages.

Yayoi Lena Winfrey fan page on Facebook (sorry, but Your Hip Hapa can’t add any more friends to her regular profile page)

You can also join our Hip Hapa Homeez group on Facebook and post articles about being transracially adopted, a blended family, an interracial couple or an ethnically mixed child, and more.

Until next bi-month, please stay tuned for more info about War Brides of Japan!

Your Hip Hapa,


Wednesday, February 03, 2016

War Brides of Japan Marches Forward And, A Sister Search

Aloha, Hip Hapa Homeez!

Arrigatou gozaimasu for your continued support in both reading this blog and in ‘liking’ our various Facebook fan pages. A list of the links appears at the end of this post.

The good news is that we’re in the midst of pre-production for our documentary, War Brides of Japan.

The bad news is that Your Hip Hapa will have little time to devote to the intense interviews posted here in the past.

However, our featured Hip Hapa Homee this bi-month is E. Dawn Samuel who has a special request for you. Please read her plea below, and respond to her directly if you have any information you feel might be helpful.

Meanwhile, we’ll keep you updated about our War Brides of Japan documentary at our Facebook fan page as well as at our new website—once it’s built, that is.

Greetings, friends.

PLEASE HELP! I’m writing in pursuit of lost love. I'm searching for a woman and her child on behalf of my father, an 86 year-old African American veteran living in upstate New York. He recently came to me to ask a favor and proceeded to tell me the most amazing story. Here are the Cliff Notes:

Toward the end of WWII, at the young age of 18 or so, my dad and his twin brother went off to war and were stationed in Japan. There my dad met and fell in love with a mixed-race Japanese/German girl named Natasha. One day in 1948 or '49, she came to him, sat in his lap and said, “You are a handsome man and I am a pretty woman. So, I’m sure this is going to be a beautiful baby.” And with that romantic remark, he was thrilled at the prospect of parenthood and the three of them becoming a family. But as fate would have it, shortly thereafter, his unit was shipped off to Korea and the young lovers where separated.  

The military, which was segregated at the time, heartlessly sent the black troops to fight with only their summer gear and, cruelly, their cold weather gear never arrived. With a lengthy winter that reached temperatures as low as 40 degrees below zero, horrifically, the majority of his unit froze to death. Thankfully, my dad and a lucky few survived.  

But when he returned to the apartment in Nagasaki where Natasha lived, her roommate--shocked and completely taken aback to see him alive--told him that thinking he was dead, Natasha had married a tech sergeant from another unit and they had immigrated to the U.S.  The roommate also told my dad he was the father of a baby girl. So, with very little information to help him pursue finding Natasha, he was shipped off again and again. 

Once, he was finally discharged from the service years later, my dad had no idea of how to find them and no idea of Natasha’s circumstances. And, he didn’t want to blow up her life. So, he harbored two major secrets: first; he kept the secret that he was alive from Natasha and; second, he kept the secret of fathering a child during the war from his family. For more than 65 years, my Uncle Richard was the only other person who knew, until my father asked me to find them for him over the Christmas holiday. 

“Babe, will ya help me out and find your sister for me?” he asked me. “I wanna meet her and see Natasha again before I die. She and your momma are the only women I’ve ever loved, and I need to see my firstborn. So please babe, find them for me.”

My dad is 86, has early Alzheimer’s/COPD and is on full oxygen. So, that’s why I’m trying to find this particular war bride. I’m searching for my sister! With a heart full of joyous emotions (I’m crying as I’m writing this now), I’m searching for my sister! Somewhere out there, my dad has a daughter that he’s never seen, but desperately wants to. So, I’m searching for my big sister! Honored and humbled that my dad chose me to share his deepest secrets, I’m searching for my sister!  Hopeful that she will be accepting of our dad and as thrilled as I am to learn of a new sibling, I’m desperately searching for my sister!  And compelled by a sense of privileged duty and with nothing but love in my heart and hope in my soul, I am searching for my sister!

E. Dawn Samuel

Yayoi Lena Winfrey fan page on Facebook (sorry, but Your Hip Hapa can’t add any more friends to her regular profile page)

Don’t forget you can become a member of our Hip Hapa Homeez group on Facebook and post articles about being ethnically mixed, or an interracial couple, or a blended family, or a transracial adoptee, and more.

And, please join our cyber voyage as we travel to film the War Brides of Japan!

Your Hip Hapa,